Phoenix Program Developing Life Strategies for Youth at Risk
By Maribel Rios, Student Contributor
Phoenix Youth at Risk is a non-profit organization that has helped transform lots of youth’s lives. They have given them a chance to dream and see a future ahead. The program lets youths who have dropped out, gotten pregnant, joined gangs, and many other similar problems to be open minded into the future and made them realize that someone is there for them that they are not alone.
The Greater Phoenix Youth at Risk was founded in 1987. It is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that provides transformational mentoring programs for at-risk children and youth in the Valley. Since the program started they have helped more than 1,700 youths ages five to seventeen.
It currently has three programs: the New Pathways Program, the Life Roads Program, and The Stepping Stones Program. New Pathways is for ages fourteen to seventeen and lasts for nine months. It consists of a four-day intensive retreat, one-on-one coaching, personal goal setting, physical challenges, pairing to adult mentors and community service.
After the youths have finished this program they can join the graduate program called Life Roads, which is 12 months long and consists of goal-orientated projects (personal and community), monthly meetings, and support through mentoring.
Stepping Stones is for homeless children between the ages of five and 15. It consists of one-on-one mentoring, encourages academic achievement, positive adult interaction and social activities.
It is shown that the results of the programs are a 65 percent decrease in violent behavior a 54 percent increase in positive attitude towards school and a 93 percent decrease in dropouts and suspensions from school. In addition, 57 percent of program youth report they see that they impact their conditions.
Kory Wilson is one of the youth in the new pathways program; he is 18 years old and has just graduated from high school. Before the program he says that he wasn’t sure about his life. He didn’t see a future for himself. But now, thanks to the program he does.
Andrew Ellington, also a youth from the same program and shares the same mentor as Kory, says he likes the people who are very loving. He admits that before the program, he was probably going to be locked up (in jail), but that now he’s on the right road and does not hang out with some of his old friends and has made new ones.
Besides the youths, the mentors are an important part of Phoenix Youth at Risk. The mentors are more then guides– they get closer then anyone to the youths, sometimes even closer then family. They become a shoulder to lean on to the children in the program who need someone to talk to. They guide them in the right direction to a better future and life. The mentor and youth usually get together at least once per week in addition to the workshops to go get a bite to eat, watch a movie or just to talk about things that are going on in each others lives. Like the slogan for mentors at youth at risk says: “Don’t just save a life. Transform it!” And that’s exactly what mentors do.
Janet Kerby currently works at Intel as a program manager; she’s always traveling and is a very busy woman who works hard. She has been a mentor in the Phoenix Youth at Risk program for two years and loves it, she says it is “really cool to see people grow and see there eyes open up to all the other opportunities in there life.”
Kirby joined because she gets to help somebody else and has actually learned a lot about herself as well. In the program, mentors gain as much as the children and youth do.
Many mentors have said that they have improved their health, self-esteem and developed a deeper and healthier insight into their own childhood.
It doesn’t take special skills to mentor a young person, just a willingness to listen, offer encouragement and share what you’ve learned about life.
If you are more interested in joining the program either as a mentor or a youth, contact Jessica White, program manager at 602-258-1012, ext.305 or email Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org. The Phoenix Youth at Risk Center is located at 1001 East Pierce Street in Phoenix.
Maribel Rios is a South Mountain District resident and a recent graduate of NFL Yet Academy and the Phoenix Youth at Risk New Pathways program